Historic Ramsey House

Earlier this year, Appalachia Bare’s Tom Anderson attended a bare-hands baseball game hosted by the Historic Ramsey House. He wrote an article about the experience you can find here. Subsequently, Ramsey House invited us to cover the Celtic and Appalachian Music Festival. We felt so honored to be there. The Ramsey House graciously opened their door to attendees, so we took an opportunity to tour the home. Join us today as we share a hint of historical background about the Ramseys and a gallery of images from our visit.

The Ramseys were pioneers of the East Tennessee region. Colonel1)An article in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly states that Ramsey was given the honorary title of “colonel.” Francis Alexander Ramsey moved to the area from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1783.2)His father was Reynolds Ramsey, a man who fought in the French and Indian War and who “served with Washington at Trenton, Princeton and Valley Forge.” Reynolds Ramsey owned a mill that kept the Continental Army fed. He and his nephew James Gettys established the town of Gettysburg. During this time, East Tennessee was under North Carolina territory. Ramsey had already helped form the city of Knoxville. He and several other prominent East Tennesseans wanted to break from North Carolina and form the state of Franklin. They were unsuccessful, however. At the beginning of the 1790s, Ramsey was named a “founding trustee of Blount College” (now known as the University of Tennessee). His son, James Gettys McGready Ramsey was a doctor and historian who wrote The Annals of Tennessee to the end of the Eighteenth Century (1853). Another son, William Baine Alexander Ramsey became the first elected mayor of Knoxville in 1839, and also served as Tennessee’s Secretary of State from 1847-1855.

Colonel Ramsey hired famous building designer Thomas Hope to construct the late Georgian-style home. In the interim, the family stayed on the property in a log cabin “twenty feet by twenty feet, one story high, with a stone chimney in one corner and covered lap shingles.”3)Bowman, Elizabeth Skaggs and Stanley J. Folmsbee. 1965. “The Ramsey House: Home of Francis Alexander Ramsey.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 24 (3): 203-18. The Ramsey abode was the first stone house in Knox County. The Colonel reportedly used his own wagon to haul the stones.4)Bowman, Elizabeth Skaggs and Stanley J. Folmsbee. 1965. “The Ramsey House: Home of Francis Alexander Ramsey.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 24 (3): 203-18. Tennessee became a state in 1796 and one year later, the Ramseys moved into their new home. The house was constructed with “walls of pink marble . . . detailed stringcourse of blue limestone . . . marble keystones and quoins, and the intricately carved consoles at the roof corners.” The house also contained the first attached kitchen.5)Millard, Bonny C. 2014. “Ramsey an Important, Unfamiliar Pioneer.” The Daily News [Memphis], Dec 6: online.6)The kitchen was attached some time later. House slaves “lived in an upstairs loft” and the Ramseys employed indentured servants (mostly from up North) to “work the land.”7)Millard, Bonny C. 2014. “Ramsey an Important, Unfamiliar Pioneer.” The Daily News [Memphis], Dec 6: online. One of the guides said the Ramsey House is in the process of better representing the slaves who resided in and around the home.

After the Colonel’s death, the dwelling went to his son William B. A. Ramsey. William’s wife died in the home and he found the memories too much to bear, so he sold the house to his brother James in the 1840s. James gave the house to his son Alexander in 1856, and he lived there with his family until the Civil War. The Ramseys were staunch Confederate sympathizers who served in the Confederacy’s military and government. Once the war ended, however, they feared for their lives and fled (mostly) to South Carolina.8)Bowman, Elizabeth Skaggs and Stanley J. Folmsbee. 1965. “The Ramsey House: Home of Francis Alexander Ramsey.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 24 (3): 203-18. In 1866, the house was sold to William C. Spurgien. Up to that time, the abode had been in the Ramsey family for at least eighty years.

In 1952, the newly formed Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA) made the Ramsey House their first priority. They utilized historical documents and period furnishings to recreate the authentic era when Colonel Francis Alexander Ramsey resided in the home. Though APTA owns the building, the home is “run independently by a board of directors.”9)Millard, Bonny C. 2014. “Ramsey an Important, Unfamiliar Pioneer.” The Daily News [Memphis], Dec 6: online. The house does contain several original pieces belonging to the Ramsey family. One can see a pair of Chippendale chairs that was given as a wedding present to Ramsey and his first wife. A cross-stitch piece made by Ramsey’s daughter Eliza is also in the home.10)Millard, Bonny C. 2014. “Ramsey an Important, Unfamiliar Pioneer.” The Daily News [Memphis], Dec 6: online.

If you’re ever in Knoxville, Tennessee, please visit this beautiful home.11)Historic Ramsey House is located at 2614 Thorngrove Pike, Knoxville, TN 37914. The stone architecture is a marvel.

Enjoy the following gallery:

 

For another enlightening take on this historic home, please also visit the Black in Appalachia podcast entitledA Halloween Special: Cupid’s Mansion.”

 

**Unless otherwise noted, all images were photographed by Delonda Anderson

References

References
1 An article in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly states that Ramsey was given the honorary title of “colonel.”
2 His father was Reynolds Ramsey, a man who fought in the French and Indian War and who “served with Washington at Trenton, Princeton and Valley Forge.” Reynolds Ramsey owned a mill that kept the Continental Army fed. He and his nephew James Gettys established the town of Gettysburg.
3, 4, 8 Bowman, Elizabeth Skaggs and Stanley J. Folmsbee. 1965. “The Ramsey House: Home of Francis Alexander Ramsey.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 24 (3): 203-18.
5, 7, 9, 10 Millard, Bonny C. 2014. “Ramsey an Important, Unfamiliar Pioneer.” The Daily News [Memphis], Dec 6: online.
6 The kitchen was attached some time later.
11 Historic Ramsey House is located at 2614 Thorngrove Pike, Knoxville, TN 37914.

2 Comments

  1. Any info on where descendants of the Ramsey family later migrated to? Names? Reason for asking: My grandmother was a Ramsey. She lived in NW TN (Yorkville and Dyer)

    1. Hello Raymond. Thank you for your question! My apologies for this late reply. From my research, I believe they moved to South Carolina, likely Charleston, because they had quite a few business dealings there. For reference, you might consider: The Ramsey House: Home of Francis Alexander Ramsey (specifically pages 214-15 – accessible under “alternative access” through a Google account), the Ramsey Letters at the University of Tennessee digital collections, and Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters. I hope this leads you in the right direction.

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